The Golan Heights way

Visit the scenic North for a real sense of the winter season.

By
November 21, 2012 16:53
Golan

The Golan Heights Way. (photo credit: www.goisrael.com)

 
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It’s getting close to that time of the year when our thoughts turn to things of a wintry complexion. One of the best parts of the country to get the best of the seasonal benefits is the Golan Heights. The recent precipitation has freshened up the foliage and the more verdant expanses of the hills there, and soon vacationers will begin making the trek north or east to the far side of the Kinneret to catch the region’s wintry splendor.

The Golan Heights is one of our most popular domestic tourist destinations, attracting some three million visitors a year. The area has plenty of natural treasures on offer, with teeming waterfalls, deep pools of water, springs and pasture land aplenty, as well as a generous sprinkling of flowers, such as irises, daffodils and asphodels. There is also an abundance of historic sites to see, with ancient synagogue ruins and battle heritage sites and imposing volcanic outcrops, not to mention the towering presence of the snow-capped Mount Hermon.

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A good point of departure to make the most of the area is the West tourist site at Ha’emir Junction. The spot has a cluster of appropriate commercial enterprises, with tasty snacks and light meals at the café, more substantial gastronomic delights at a restaurant, an attractive art gallery, a spice store and a wine store that stocks locally produced products. There is also an inviting sculpture garden nearby, as well as a copse with a wonderful view of Mount Hermon and the Golan Hills. If you fancy getting in on the act, there is a choice of workshops there too, including liquormaking instruction and a pottery class. For more details, call: (04) 689-4774.



Of course, if you’re going to make a trip there, it might not be a bad idea to get yourself some cozy accommodation and make the most of your weekend or midweek break. The Golan Heights offers a plentiful array of B&B facilities throughout the region to suit all tastes and depths of pockets. Just down the road from West, for example, nestles Moshav Sha’al with suitably rustic-looking, comfortably appointed wood lodges. There is also a spa on the site, complete with Jacuzzi, sauna and massage services, as well as a compact art gallery. And if you fancy staying closer to the elements, you can also sack out in, albeit luxurious, cheery teepee-style accommodation. For more details, call: 054-440-4660 or 050-232-2334.

Other local accommodation options include a guest house, B&B and plush khan setup at Moshav Odem – the latter is suitable for large families and groups. For more details: (04) 683-7724, 052-232-4504 or 050-567-4072. And you don’t have to go too far to find interesting and fun things to do. The local Har Edom winery is well worth a visit ((04) 687-1122). And if you fancy getting out there, you can take a horseback trek (052-378-1651) or check out some of the local terrain via self-drive jeep services (050-520-6050).

The Golan Heights also offers some stunning volcanic landscapes, particularly at the Volcanic Park site not too far from Ha’emir Junction, in the Odem Wood. The park forms part of the brand new Volcanic Way route, which offers a neat vehicle for getting the most out of the region’s basalt strewn expanses and takes in some unique geological phenomena. In fact, the whole of the Golan Heights constitutes a basalt mountain spread delineated to the south by the Yarmuch River and the Gilad Hills, and on the north by the Sa’ar River and Mount Hermon.



The Volcanic Way takes you down a route with some spectacular results of geological activity, with four stations along the way. The Great Juba in the Edom Forest is a prominent local feature and a good place to set off to discover some of the geomorphologic delights available in the locale. The Juba is a geological rarity. It comprises a crater in the basalt terrain, 250 meters in diameter and 60 meters in depth, formed by a volcanic eruption followed by a collapse of the basalt cover following erosion of underlying chalk stratum. The stouter of heart can descend into the crater, where they will find luxurious vegetation, with a sprinkling of crocuses normally in full view around this time of the year, followed by a stiff climb up the far side of the crater.

Just a few minutes’ drive away, you come across a paleomagnetic site, where you encounter the puzzling phenomenon of rocks that incorporate magnetic fields that are out of the ordinary. A glance at a compass there will reveal that north and south seem to have traded places.

The next stop along the Volcanic Way is Mount Bental, a dormant volcano that rises over Kibbutz Merom Golan to a height of more than 1,100 meters above sea level. The hilltop spot has a visitors’ center, as well as a café and a charming sculpture garden with some tongue-incheek scrap iron creations by Dutch artist Joop De Jong. The vantage point also offers magnificent views of Mount Hermon, the Syrian side of the Golan Heights and the mountains of Southern Lebanon to the north.



Finally, we get to the Mount Avital Nature Reserve, which takes in the eponymous outcrop that towers above the surrounding landscape at just over 1,200 meters above sea level. This area offers a view of all sorts of telltale signs of the local highly dynamic geological activity over hundreds of thousands of years. It has been developed by the Golan Regional Council, the Quarries Rehabilitation Fund and the Ministry of Tourism. Professional guides are available by reservation.

One of the great benefits of a break in the Golan Heights is the proximity of the beauty spots and the wide range of accommodation available within short distances. Kibbutz Ein Zivan is a convenient nocturnal stopover spot in the northern part of the Golan, offering lodge-style and khan accommodation. The Da Karina handmade chocolate manufacturing enterprise is a fun thing to observe, and you can get your hands nice and sticky at a workshop there. The kibbutz also offers jeep rentals, horseback riding and guided tours of the Volcanic Way. For reservations and more information, call 050-900-1070.

Kibbutz Merom Golan also offers lodging, complete with log fires and family-size room accommodation, as well as restaurant services, jeep rentals, horseback riding and bicycle rentals. For reservations and more information, call (04) 696-0267.

And if you’d like to look out onto the world from your B&B room, Neveh Ativ on the slopes of Mount Hermon should do the trick. For reservations and more information, call (04) 696-2885.

Information about the entire region is available at the Golan Tourism Information Center: (04) 696-2885; www.tourgolan.org.il; www.goisrael.gov.il.



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